Robert Kelly is an angry guy. I mean, really angry. On his new* album, “Live,” there are 38 tracks of him yelling and screaming about various topics and I’m still trying to figure out why he’s so upset. He doesn’t always explain what has him so wound up but instead ticks off each subject like he’s screaming a laundry list of things he hates. I hate dog shit! I hate playing video games with girls! I hate Osama Bin Laden! I hate being scared!
By the time I finished listening to the album, I hadn’t laughed out loud once but I did have a bit of a headache, so I guess that’s something. Where I felt Kelly fell short was he very rarely expanded on what it was he was screaming about. The average length of each track is barely over a minute, so he shouts what it is that makes him angry and then for the most part moves on to the next thing without really digging in to find the funny.
Although Kelly has a lot of energy on stage, when it comes to the actual writing of his material, I couldn’t help but feel he was slacking off a bit. It reminded me of being in school and not realizing a 3-page essay was due the next day. Sure, I can slap something together, but it’s not going to blow anyone way. I wondered if Kelly did the same thing, only instead of panicking about not realizing the CD was being recorded, he just said, “Ah, screw it, I’ll go up there, use some silly voices, make a bunch of fart sounds, and say “shit” a lot. And then I’ll use more silly voices and then more fart sounds and then scream “shit” a few times. They’ll laugh at anything.”
I’m not falling for it.
Besides Kelly screaming at the drop of a hat, there’s not much here to set himself apart from every other comic working an open mike. With bits about New York being smelly, that rascally Osama Bin Laden (how come we can’t catch him?), and finding all sorts of reasons to force his “gay” voice into a bit, I can’t help but think I’ve heard it all before.
I knew we were in trouble when Kelly decided he wanted to talk about being in the cold and he smoothly transitioned into it by asking, “Have you ever been in the cold?” Really? Have you ever been in the cold? He did it with no sense of irony and it was at that moment I wondered if his heart was even still in the game. He seemed to be phoning it in with basic A + B = Comedy equations (where A = a Carlos Mencia voice and B = a Gabriel Iglesias voice).
*As pointed out in the comments below, I made an error in my review for not pointing out this isn’t a “new” album, but a re-release of a 2003 recording. It does show how much Kelly has progressed as a comedian since then, but I’m not sure it merits a re-release. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re going to release an old project, make sure it’s still funny (see my 2011 review of Lewis Black’s “The Prophet”). For a really good example of what to do with old material, stay tuned for my forthcoming review of Jim Florentine’s “Awful Jokes From My First Comedy Notebook.”